Future Echoes

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"Future Echoes"
Red Dwarf episode
RD Future Echoes.jpg
A "future echo" of Lister's future self holding his two baby sons, Jim and Bexley.
Episode no.Series 1
Episode 2
Directed byEd Bye
Written byRob Grant & Doug Naylor
Original air date22 February 1988 (1988-02-22)
Guest appearance(s)

John Lenahan as Toaster
Tony Hawks as Dispensing Machine

Episode chronology
← Previous
"The End"
Next →
"Balance of Power"
List of Red Dwarf episodes

"Future Echoes" is the second episode of the science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf series one,[1] and was first broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 22 February 1988.[2] It was written by co-creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and directed by Ed Bye.[3]

The episode—which has the crew witnessing events from the future as Red Dwarf breaks the light barrier—was considered to be one of the better efforts from the first series,[4] so much so that it has been credited, by the creators, as having saved the series.[5] The episode was re-mastered, along with the rest of the first three series, in 1998, to appeal more to international broadcasters.[6]


Lister (Craig Charles) has decided, much to the annoyance of Rimmer (Chris Barrie), to take the Cat (Danny John-Jules) with him as he spends the remainder of the journey back to Earth in stasis. As Lister is shaving in preparation for stasis the ship jolts. Holly (Norman Lovett) explains that after three million years of constant acceleration the ship has just broken the light barrier. Reassuring Lister that everything will be all right Holly goes back to navigating the ship. Lister, however, starts seeing odd occurrences in the mirror and realizing he is seeing events that will happen in the immediate future. Later, Lister goes to speak to Rimmer in the drive room, only to see him apparently talking to no-one and speaking nonsense. Rimmer walks out of the drive room, only for Lister to see another Rimmer immediately walk in the other side of the room, and in their subsequent conversation Rimmer says exactly the same things he did previously, this time making perfect sense. Finally, the Cat runs past Rimmer and Lister in the corridor shouting about how he lost a tooth, but Lister and Rimmer then find Cat in Lister's quarters, happily trying to eat Lister's robotic goldfish and with all his teeth intact. After discussing the occurrences with Holly it appears that they are experiencing "Future Echoes"; events that will occur in the future that can be seen in the present.[7] They then discover another "future echo": a photograph of Listers showing himself and two babies.

After the impact of an explosion rips through the corridors Rimmer tells Lister that he saw a vision of Lister die in an accident in the drive room. Lister comes to believe that the Cat will break a tooth on one of the robotic goldfish, and that if he can prevent that, he can prevent his own death. Unfortunately for Lister, he ends up knocking the Cat's tooth out himself during their struggle over the goldfish. Soon the drive room navicomp starts malfunctioning and Lister is the only person that can repair it. Lister boldly goes to the drive room to face his destiny the same way as he came into the world; kicking and screaming.[7] Lister successfully repairs the navicomp system and there is no explosion. Rimmer doesn't understand it as he believes he saw Lister die.[8]

Another "future echo" appears as Lister and Rimmer enter their sleeping quarters. There lying on the bunk is an old Lister with aged grey dreadlocks and a robotic arm. The old Lister tells them that it was one of Lister's twin sons, Bexley, that Rimmer saw die, and then tells them to go to the medical unit with a camera. Rimmer attempts to use the time phenomenon to his advantage: ask the current Lister about his future so that years later the old Lister can answer it, but both Listers end up messing with him instead.

As they race to the medical unit, Lister questions Holly about the range of "future echoes", and Holly explains that as they get faster, the "future echoes" are further into the future, and because they are now slowing down the "future echoes" they see are getting closer to the present. Rimmer asks how Lister would get twin sons with no women on board. Lister doesn't know but insists that it's going to be a laugh finding out. The door to the medical unit slides open and another Lister, of similar age, walks out carrying two crying babies and poses for the camera.[8]


Split-screen techniques were used to achieve the Rimmer echo

It was the fourth episode recorded and they felt it worked well, but it proved very difficult to write and the script confused a lot of people. Director Ed Bye was even said to have been sceptical and baffled by it.[5] The writers were convinced viewers would be swayed by the unusual premise of the show, and an introduction was written to be read by Holly at the beginning of each episode to remind audiences of the premise of the show and what events had preceded that particular episode. Co-creator and writer, Doug Naylor, frequently had to remind the cast of these things too, as it took them a while to get their heads around the plot.[5] Despite this, it was eventually decided by the producers that it actually introduced the fact this was a sit-com which used real scientific principles better than previously recorded episodes and aired it as the second episode.

Split-screen techniques were used as Lister talked to Rimmer's echo—just as the original Rimmer walked out the door. While Craig Charles interacted with Chris Barrie the first time, he had to then act with thin air. Where in fact, the finished shot would have Rimmer's echo walking in from the other direction and Lister trying to talk to him. This was achieved by shooting the scene with Charles and Barrie and then a separate shot of Barrie was added to the scene to follow on with the conversation with Charles.[9]

The skutters, the tiny, motorised, three-clawed service droids, were actual working models. They were made up of parts including old shoe boxes and the engines of radio-controlled cars. Interference originating from the radios of a nearby taxi company, which was particularly busy during filming of "Future Echoes", caused havoc with the skutter models on set. One reportedly poked Craig Charles in the eye, and another launched an unsuspecting attack on Chris Barrie's groin. Coincidentally the skutters were in the script very inept towards their maintenance work and mischievous towards humans.[10]

John Lenahan voiced the Toaster and Tony Hawks provided his voice for the Dispensing Machine.[3]

After the episode aired Rob Grant and Doug Naylor became uncomfortable with how casually Lister takes the news of his future son's violent death. When this episode was adapted for Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, this was altered so it's actually Lister's grandson who dies in the navicomp explosion.

Cultural references[edit]

This was the first episode of the series to deal with a science fiction plot based on real scientific theory, which was to become a common occurrence in later Red Dwarf episodes. For this particular episode, time dilation and various assorted time anomalies caused by travelling close to the speed of light (or indeed even at the speed of light) are referenced in Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.


"Future Echoes" was originally broadcast on the British television channel BBC2 on 21 February 1988 in the 9:00 p.m. evening time slot.[2] Although the pilot episode "The End" gained over five million viewers, this was now tailing off slightly as the series progressed.[11] The episode was considered to be one of the better ones from the first series.[4] Co-creator and writer, Rob Grant, stated that if it weren't for "Future Echoes" then the show would have been nonexistent. It was the fourth episode recorded and they felt it worked so well they brought it forward in the schedule to second.[5]


Video effects were added to the existing footage to give the illusion of breaking light speed

The remastering of series one to three was carried out during the late 1990s.[12] Changes carried out included replacement of the opening credits (re-instating the original idea of the one shot of pulling away from the ship),[13] colour grading and filmising of the picture,[14] new computer-generated special effects of Red Dwarf flying through space,[15] and many more visual, audio and scene adjustments.[15]

Changes specific to "Future Echoes" include new bike shots of Lister inserted at the beginning,[16] and computer-generated special effects of Red Dwarf breaking the light barrier.[16] Also post-production video effects of white flashes were added to scenes when the ship breaks the light barrier.[16] An additional dramatic score was added to the scene of Lister's impending death.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "British Sitcom Guide — Red Dwarf — Series 1". www.sitcom.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  2. ^ a b "BBC Programme Catalogue RED DWARF — FUTURE ECHOES". BBC. Retrieved 27 November 2011.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ a b "Future Echoes cast and crew". www.imdb.com. Retrieved 31 January 2008.
  4. ^ a b Episode Survey Results, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 10, December 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  5. ^ a b c d Episode Guide: Series 1 episode 2: Future Echoes, Red Dwarf Smegazine, volume 2 issue 2, June 1993, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  6. ^ "Sci-Fi-London Film Festival — The Bodysnatcher Collection". www.sci-fi-london.com. Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  7. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 46.
  8. ^ a b Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 47.
  9. ^ Remastering Crew (2007). The Beginning DVD documentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  10. ^ Intrerview: Peter Wragg, Red Dwarf Smegazine, issue 8, October 1992, Fleetway Editions Ltd, ISSN 0965-5603
  11. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 8-9.
  12. ^ "Remasters of the Universe". www.reddwarf.co.uk. Archived from the original on 4 January 2008. Retrieved 28 January 2008.
  13. ^ "Series I Remastering". www.reddwarf.co.uk. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  14. ^ Remastering Crew (2007). The End Re-Mastered DVD Commentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  15. ^ a b Remastering Crew (2007). 'Re-Dwarf' Documentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  16. ^ a b c d Remastering Crew (2007). Future Echoes Re-Mastered text commentary (DVD). Bodysnatcher DVD Boxset disc 1: BBC.
  17. ^ Howarth & Lyons (1993) p. 209.


External links[edit]